Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google Cancels Town Hall Meeting on Diversity Memo Following Online Harassment of Employees

Google CEO Sundar Pichai canceled a town hall meeting he had scheduled for Thursday to discuss the issues raised by an employee’s controversial memo questioning the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the subsequent termination of the author of that memo, engineer James Damore. Pichai said he opted to cancel the meeting after questions intended for the meeting were leaked to the media and some Google employees’ names ended up on “alt-right” websites, resulting in them becoming targets of online harassment, Recode’s Kara Swisher reports:

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our [internally submitted] questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally,” wrote Pichai to employees. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.” …

Sources inside Google said some employees had begun to experience “doxxing” — online harassment that can take various forms and is defined as “searching for and publishing private or identifying information about [a particular individual] on the internet, typically with malicious intent.” Several sites … have been publishing internal discussion posts and giving out information on those employees.

“In recognition of Googlers’ concerns,” Pichai wrote in his announcement that the meeting was canceled, “we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely.”

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Are Glassdoor Reviews Protected Speech?

Are Glassdoor Reviews Protected Speech?

Writing for SHRM, Caryn Freeman looks at an effort to sue the employer review site Glassdoor:

Charles Lee Mudd Jr., principal at Chicago-based Mudd Law Offices, is representing Stahulak & Associates and Thomas Stahulak in a complaint alleging defamation, false light and tortious interference regarding reviews made on Glassdoor.

Mudd is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and injunctive relief for reviews posted on Glassdoor in December 2014 and February 2015. The reviews were about working conditions at the law firm. Mudd says there’s a balance between what is considered free speech and what is posted on the Internet … [and] the Constitution does not protect defamation.

So are the anonymous, sometimes highly critical reviews posted on Glassdoor protected speech? Freeman spoke with labor lawyer James R. Redeker about that, and he said that as long as their statements are true, employees are in the legal clear:

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